#MeToo and the Arts: what Will Change In 2019?

Almost 18 months after the #MeToo movement swept the global media platform, the list of abusive men seems to be ever-growing. As we witness as a monumental shift in attitudes toward sexual harassment and assault, what will actually change in the arts industry?

In 2017, the media was flooded by the global and ever-growing hashtag: #MeToo. The person to firstly thank for this amplified movement is Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist, and founder of the 2006 ‘me too’ campaign which ‘empowered women through empathy’. Now, the hashtag has since been translated into many languages and has trended in 85 different countries. The social media movement which sought to oust sexual predators in Hollywood has since made its way around the world of theatre and fine art. The subsequent expulsion of men in powerful positions began only 5 days after the New York Times reports of Weinstein’s decades of abuse. When the allegations against Weinstein started to emerge, it seemed like only a matter of time before more truths would surface.

The following year, #MeToo and Time’s Up were at the forefront of shifting perceptions and putting sexual misconduct on the agenda. The necessary movement and conversation around sexual assault and harassment have been an immensely significant turning point for Hollywood and the Arts as a whole. But it’s been over a year since this simple hashtag swept Twitter and Facebook, and we can ask if anything has really changed.

Renowned actor Kevin Spacey, 59, is due in court this month following allegations of sexual harassment by Anthony Rapp when he was just 14. Since Rapp’s accusations, more than 30 individuals have come forward with their own allegations of sexual misconduct by the actor which have since resulted in his immediate removal from Netflix’s House of Cards and his replacement by Christopher Plumer in the completed film, All the Money in the World. Spacey, who won best actor in 2000 for American Beauty, is just one of the dozens of men who have been targeted and expelled by the #MeToo movement and rightly so. The removal of Spacey from subsequent well-known productions, there does appear to be an active effort to eliminate abusive men from the Arts industry. Both productions made the business decision to remove Spacey following the extensive allegations against him and it certainly paid off. Spacey’s own film, Billionaire Boys Club, took in a miserable £98 on its opening night in American cinemas last August. However, was Spacey removed from these productions because of his abusive behaviour or because the directors were worried about viewing ratings?

On December 24th 2018, the internet witnessed a peculiar video posted on Kevin Spacey’s twitter titled ‘Let Me Be Frank’. Spacey appears to morph into his character from House of Cards, President Frank Underwood, only a few days after it was reported that he would stand trial for sexual harassment this January. The video is particularly unnerving in light of the allegations against him, as he says ‘soon enough you will know the full truth. Wait a minute, now that I think of it, you never actually saw me die, did you? Conclusions can be so deceiving. Miss me’. During this odd and sinister plea of innocence, Spacey addresses the camera throughout the monologue and seems to be alluding to the mysterious death of his Netflix character and the sexual misconduct allegations he is facing.

It is true that we now know more than we have ever known about the dark side of Hollywood and the Arts industry and yet there is still more to grapple with. The #MeToo movement is merely the tip of the iceberg in the long-standing abusive reign of men in power and we, as paying audiences, have a responsibility to shun these men and refuse to allow them a platform to continue their work. Perhaps Weinstein’s case is a sad reality that justice will not be brought forward, and some men will not face the consequences: he was arrested and charged in May 2018, released on bail the following day, then had a charge dropped in November 2018. And where is he now? The media frenzy around his case lasted less than a year and seems to have almost forgotten about it. Kevin Spacey’s news is in the media right now because it is relevant. But once his trial is over, he too will slide into the background as soon as another big name is mentioned in connection with #MeToo. It is up to the public to ensure these issues stay fixed in the media’s agenda and we allow a stage for these conversations to occur.

Talent and genius should not excuse sexual misconduct on any level and with a new year ahead of us, we can only hope that more predatory behaviour is exposed and the people responsible are held accountable. The anger toward these men and their actions has led to the positive and monumental movement, one which can only grow in strength in 2019.


Sian Smith

Image credit: flag.leeds.ac.uk